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P. F . Chang's

Dragon Garden

China Buffet
Happy Dragon
Jin Jin
Golden Wok
Panda Cuisine
Lexington has a proud history of fine Chinese restaurants but in the 21st Century the field has devolved in odd ways. The first Chinese establishment was Wing's Tea House, which opened in 1958 on New Circle Road serving Cantonese cuisine. It was the first nationality restaurant in town to serve anything besides Italian, and was a huge success. It prospered for 35 years until the owners retired. The second Chinese restaurant in town was the tiny Jade Garden, opened in 1974 in Chevy Chase by a family of three sisters and two brothers who came over to attend college at UK. They paid their way through for six years with a Shanghai menu, living above the restaurant while earning B.A.s and then MBAs. The Jade Garden had a galley kitchen out back and just 12 tables, but older Lexingtonians still remember its Hot and Sour Soup, Egg Rolls and Moo Goo Gai Pan.. The week the five siblings received their MBAs they closed the restaurant, sold the property, packed their belongings and flew back to China. Hunan opened in 1984 and for 33 years was the best in town, perhaps in the state. In the 1990s the All-China Buffet became popular. Next Carry Out became the fad. Today, half the Chinese eateries in town are carry out with no sit down service, or carry out and buffet only. Another strange development has been the standardized menu. Ten of Lexington's Chinese restaurants have exactly the same menu with only the colors changed, even though they are owned by different people and not part of a chain. Luckily the remaining restaurants give us a good choice of traditional sit down style with excellent quality. chinese

Jin Jin is the mostly takeout restaurant the family opened after closing Hunan after a 32 year run. Hunan was the best Chinese restaurant in town. Jin Jin includes a special section entitled "Hunan Classical Gourmet : Original Recipes From Hunan Restaurant." We highly recommend ordering from this nine entree menu. They are the best of Jin Jin's offerings. Among this elite list, we like the Beef With Garlic Sauce, Chan Do Pork and Kung Pao Chicken. A word of caution, however. Hunan is a city in China famous for its spicy cuisine. The restaurant Hunan and now Jin Jin honors this tradition. Their instinct is to prepare very spicy entrees. We suggest you request mild or medium food, unless you really like and are experienced with extreme heat. We also recommend the Hot & Sour Soup. During Hunan's run, this was considered by Chinese fans the best Hot & Sour Soup in the state.

If you want to venture beyond the classic Hunan Restaurant menu, we can recommend the Bourbon Chicken (a bow to Kentucky tradition), Moo Goo Gai Pan (chicken and mushroom stir fry), Moo Shu Beef (thin strips of beef marinated, then stir fried with vegetables), Egg Plant in Garlic Sauce, and Pineapple Chicken. There are a few items hidden in this menu which we really urge you to try, but which require an adventurous culinary spirit. One is the Seaweed Egg Drop Soup. If you've never tried this, it might sound iffy, but it's delicious. Another is the Sweet and Sour Fish. Jin Jin's Chicken Chow Mein (with thin rice noodles) is excellent.

P. F. Chang's has become the face of Chinese food in Lexington due to its location at the entrance to Fayette Mall. It is by far the largest Oriental restaurant in town. Ironically, its menu is not as large as some of its rivals, who almost bury diners in excess with over 100 items. But Chang's has everything you could possibly want and the quality is outstanding. The Hot and Sour Soup will wake up your taste buds. Of their sides, we're particularly fond of the Shanghai Cucumbers. We think their Lemon Scallops or Oolong Sea Bass (the fish is steeped in Oolong tea, broiled and served with ginger, soy and spinach) are the equal of any entrees offered by the best Lexington seafood restaurants. There are 14 chicken dishes which can hard to select from, but we recommend the Eggplant Chicken (stir fried with scallions in chili pepper sauce), or the old standard Moo Goo Gai Pan (chicken, shrimp, mushrooms and vegetables). People do not generally go to a Chinese restaurant for steak, but Chang's does a great job with their Asian Marinated 12 oz. New York Strip. They offer chicken or beef which gives the meat a delicate citrusy taste. For dessert they bring you an array from which to choose. For couples, there's an interesting menu of $40 all inclusive dinners for two. The menu contains one whole page of gluten free appetizers, soups, entrees, sides and desserts. p.f.chang's
happy dragon The Happy Dragon offers the same menu as the Dragon Garden and several others. The 10 soups and 13 appetizers are all good but the house specialty is Crab Rangoon. There are six Chop Sueys, seven Chow Meins, and 120 items in all. The Chef's Specialties are a fireworks display of Oriental treats, but we particularly like the Seafood Delight (shrimp, scallops, lobster, crab and vegetables in white sauce), Beef-Scallops in vegetables served on a sizzling hot plate, and the Emperor's Three Treasures (chicken, shrimp, scallops, snow peas, broccoli, mushrooms, and water chestnuts in white sauce). From downtown, use West Main, turn right on Newtown Pike, follow it past LexMark over New Circle Road, drop down and climb the opposite hill, and The Happy Dragon is on the right. Turn in at the Griffin Gate entrance.
The Golden Wok is a deceptive place. It's in the far corner of a strip mall off Richmond Road. From the car it looks like a modest carry out operation. But inside, it opens to a full scale restaurant; that mall building is deeper than you think. They have 111 items on the menu. In their menu selections and in the seasoning and preparation, The Golden Wok leans heavily toward Hunan cuisine, meaning hot and spicy. However, some menu items are mild, and by request any item can be prepared without the heat. There are also many vegetarian entrees. They have eight soups, third largest list in town. Their 14 appetizers are the most in Lexington,and include a Pupu Platter (spare ribs, chicken wings, shrimp, beef teriyaki), and Crab Rangoon. Golden Wok offers the sweet and sour dinners many local rivals omit, and they do them very well. Among the Chef's Specialties, we think they do their best job with the Seafood Delight (shrimp, scallops, crab meet and vegetables sauteed in white sauce), Happy Family (scallops, beef, chicken, roast pork, shrimp and vegetables) and General Tso's Chicken. This last dish is an icon of Hunanese cuisine. General Tso (or Zuo) brought back Broccoli from his campaign in Outer Mongolia. A Mongolian had told him Broccoli was the secret to the long lives Mongolians enjoyed, so Tso instructed his wife and chef to devise a dish using it. The result is sweet and spicy deep fried dark meat slices of chicken and broccoli. seasoned with garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, wine, and scallions. It was the favorite dish of Chiang Kai Shek. golden wok
Panda Cuisine sits way back from Nicholasville Road in a strip mall by the Pasadena Drive intersection. The decor is very tasteful. Many well travelled Lexingtonians claim this food is not only the best in town, but competitive with New York City, Boston and San Francisco. The cuisine here is primarily Sichuan. Their strength is the dinner menu. Items here ranked best in town are Yu Shiang (spicy chicken), Panda's Spicy Beef, and Pork Bamboo Shoots. Appetizers worth ordering are Garlic Pork, Jellyfish, Ginger Green Beans, and Spicy Beef Tendon. It's worth a visit to sample their 10 soups, especially Chicken Corn, San Sien, Mandarin Seafood, Scallop Chowder, and Fu Rong Squid.
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